Ronald Acuña Jr. is public enemy No. 1 for the Miami Marlins, and he can end them.
Acuña is in his third season with the Braves. They have won the NL East three seasons in a row and are coming off their first postseason series victory since 2001. Though Freddie Freeman could win NL MVP, Acuña is the most talented player on the Braves’ roster. What if Acuña is the reason the Marlins fail to advance in the postseason for the first time in franchise history? It may happen.
Ronald Acuña Jr. is the guy to end the Miami Marlins’ perfect postseason record.
Acuna nearly went 40-40 in his second year in the league in 2019. He won NL Rookie of the Year in 2018, took home a Silver Slugger last season, as well as making the All-MLB Second Team in his first MLB All-Star season. With perhaps more talent than even Andruw Jones had coming out of Curaçao back in 1996, Atlanta may have the best player in the NL through the 2020s in Acuña.
Given that he plays baseball with a certain flair, it tends to rub the opposition the wrong way, especially the division rival Marlins. Acuña’s history of getting beaned by Marlins ace Jose Ureña and other members of their pitching staff is well-documented, as well as his ability to come up with clutch hits in crucial moments vs. the Fish. Needless to say, the Marlins are not fans of his.
Fate would have it these two NL East rivals will square off in a best-of-five series in the 2020 NLDS at neutral-site Houston. All four League Division Series feature a pair of division rivals going at it. While the animus between the Oakland Athletics and the Houston Astros is certainly undeniable, it’s not like the Marlins are particularly fond of Acuña and Braves baseball in general.
With the Braves winning their first postseason series since Acuña has been able to create memories as a human being, as he was three years old the last time the Braves advanced back in 2001, they don’t face the same amount of pressure they did heading into their NL Wild Card series vs. the Cincinnati Reds back in Truist Park early last week. However, the Fish don’t lose in October.
The Marlins have a robust postseason history working for them. Though they have only qualified for the postseason three times as a franchise, going in as a Wild Card team on each occasion, they are now 7-0 in all-time postseason series. The two previous times the Marlins made the postseason field, they went on to win improbable World Series championships. Will that continue?
To date, the Marlins have defeated the following opponents in their postseason history: The San Francisco Giants (1997 NLDS, 2003 NLDS), the Chicago Cubs (2003 NLCS, 2020 NL Wild Card series), the Cleveland Indians (1997 World Series), the New York Yankees (2003 World Series) and the division rival Braves (1997 NLCS). They may have history on their side, but Atlanta is better.
The Braves won the 2020 season series narrowly over the Fish with a 6-4 mark. Atlanta earned the No. 2 seed in the expanded NL postseason picture, while the Marlins earned the No. 6 seed as the worst second-place division finisher in the National League behind the No. 4 San Diego Padres and the No. 5 St. Louis Cardinals. Yet, they had no problem giving the Cubs hell up in Wrigley Field.
Both teams advanced because of similar reasons. Atlanta and Miami demonstrated terrific starting pitching, outstanding bullpen work, sound base running and clutch hitting late in ball games. Both clubs are playing with a lot of confidence, but the Braves have two things going for them the Marlins do not: Immense star power and recent postseason heartbreak to fuel them.
What may have gotten lost in the Braves’ postseason series vs. Cincinnati is the maturity showed by Acuña. His inconsistencies in the last two NLDS vs. the Cardinals and the Los Angeles Dodgers contributed to Atlanta not advancing. He had three base knocks in Game 2 vs. Luis Castillo of the Reds, including the series deciding single to plate Austin Riley in the bottom of the fifth inning.
Being able to play with a cool head, while simultaneously being the most exciting player on the Braves is something Miami may not be truly ready for. Though either of these clubs have the mental makeup to advance to the NLCS, the Braves simply have another gear the Marlins can’t get to this season. Maybe they will in due time, but Acuña and the rest of his teammates got this.
It would only be fitting if Acuña is the one to end the Marlins’ perfect playoff record next week.